From time to time, I have a little rant. I’m not sure what triggered this one. Well, yes I do. It was a short blog post by Patrick Allmond entitled, “Do I Really have to learn how to play golf in business?” It made me think. I hope it, and my thoughts below, do the same for you.
I don’t know when the game of golf became a major player in a person’s professional success. Nowhere have I seen it written in a job description or in executive search material that the successful candidate must play golf. And yet, in major organizations across North America, golf has somehow insinuated itself into the corporate culture to the extent that even those who have little facility for the game or inclination to play, are doling out money for clubs, memberships, lessons and other golf accoutrements because they think it will help them get ahead in their careers.
Well, according to some, it will.
In fact, an academic study using data from 1998 to 2004 found that executives, who play golf, typically earn more than those who don’t, especially if they play well.
In 2011, an article entitled, “Why Golfers Get Ahead” appeared in The Economist. It makes reference to the above study and talks about the benefits of playing golf with clients and prospects. It also points out that while executives who play golf tend to be paid more, they do not characteristically earn more in shareholder value.
I found, too, an article in About.com written by Linda Lowen entitled “Breaking the Grass Ceiling: Women Playing Golf. In it, she writes,
“According to the Grass Ceiling Inc. (a consulting group which offers golf workshops for executive level women and minorities), any woman aiming for a senior management position can’t afford not to play”
There seems to be an obvious bias there but nonetheless, statements like this serve to feed the notion that if you are an executive and you want to be successful, you’d better jolly well learn how to play golf.
Okay, so I like golf. My husband and I used to play. And, even though I was never very good at it, it helped me learn about myself (the good, bad and ugly); gave me an opportunity to meet people in beautiful surroundings and also enjoy time with my husband. So what’s not to like?
In business, playing golf with clients helps build networks and valuable relationships. And, it reveals a lot about one’s character and level of emotional intelligence. I get that too.
But, my question is this. How did we get to a place where we allow golf to decide who’s in and who’s out?
None of us should feel that to find success in our business relationships or rise to the executive ranks, we must learn, and play, golf. Frankly, I find that notion ludicrous and seriously discriminatory.
Golf is a great game. It is also handy as a business tool for those who enjoy it. But, it is a game. It should not be a determining factor in a person’s professional success. Organizational cultures that exclude people either consciously or unconsciously, simply because they don’t play golf need some serious examination.
Perhaps it was a good fit in the 20th Century. This, however, is the 21st Century. There are an inordinate number of ways to make connections; build business relationships and close deals. Instead of trying to fit ourselves into an old archetype, surely we can branch out, explore, and learn to value the variety of ways available to us that will give us the results we want. Besides, there is nothing magical about golf. To some it is simply “A good walk spoiled”.
What do you think?